#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 29th October 2011

As no reader of this paper can be unaware, our MP was amongst those from all the leading parties who voted for an EU referendum. Given the option, I would probably vote to renegotiate the conditions of our membership, and it is nice to see MPs willing to ‘stand on principle’ (if embarrassing for David Cameron). However, this does raise a simple question: if Mr Smith is willing to rebel against the whip on the basis of his principles, what does his voting record say about his principles?

Since joining the council I have seen just how substantial the government’s cut to Crawley’s budget has been. While our reserves could (and should) help us to ride this out, having complained for years about Labour’s not increasing his council’s budget enough (a line he kept up about government spending throughout the recession), I expected Mr Smith to raise a word in Crawley’s favour. He didn’t.

We all value our police force, but at a time of public disorder and facing a reduction of around 500 officers in Sussex, Mr Smith voted to give taxpayers a new type of politician – Police and Crime Commissioners – rather than working to maintain police numbers.

Having been born in Crawley Hospital, I am disappointed  that the town’s next generation are having to be born at East Surrey. For this reason and many others, both Labour and the Tories support the construction of a new hospital for the town (I will congratulate any party who manages to deliver an acute NHS hospital for Crawley). But instead of delivering even the private hospital he proposed before the election, Mr Smith has voted for Tory proposals to deconstruct the NHS. This wasn’t in their manifesto; the public never voted for it.

All parties want to see the economy moving again: growth is the only way the government can pay off the national debt. So Mr Smith’s voting to raise VAT at a time when inflation has rocketed, a proposal dismissed by leading economists as ‘economic incompetence’, leaves me baffled. 17 months into Tory-led government and the economy is still flat-lining.

I believe that it is right for MP’s to vote on the basis of their principles, but it’s certainly odd to see how selective Mr Smith is as to what he opposes.

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